OECD report: ‘Health at a Glance Asia/Pacific 2016’

Asia-Pacific countries should strengthen their health systems and sharply increase spending to deliver effective universal coverage in order to meet the changing needs of their fast ageing populations, according to a new OECD report.

‘Health at a Glance Asia/Pacific 2016’ says that the share of the population aged 65 years and over in Asian countries is expected to increase by two and half times in the next decades to reach 20.5% in 2050. Life expectancy at birth across 22 Asian countries reached 73.7 years in 2015, a gain of about 4.6 years since 2000. In comparison, OECD countries gained 3.4 years during the same period.

A large regional divide persists: the country with the longest life expectancy is Hong Kong, China with 84 years for both men and women. Japan, Australia, Singapore, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea and Macao, China also exceeded 80 years for total life expectancy. In Papua New Guinea and Laos, a child born in 2015 can expect to live an average of less than or equal to 65 years of life.

There has been a dramatic fall in the infant mortality rate across the region since 2000, with many countries experiencing declines of greater than 50%. At an average of 21.5 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2015, infant mortality is still five times the OECD rate.
Between 2000 and 2015, the average maternal mortality rate across Asian countries was cut by more than half. Maternal mortality averages seven deaths per 100 000 live births in OECD countries, while in Asian countries it is almost 13 times greater.

There are too few doctors and nurses in the region, at around 1.3 and 3.2 per 1 000 population respectively – well below the OECD average of 3.3 and 9.1 – to cope with the demands in particular of an ageing population.

While the number of hospital beds per capita is at 3.3 per 1 000 population on average across Asia, below the OECD average of 4.7, health services for an ageing population will need to be centred on primary care and continuity, away from hospital centric systems.

Asian economies spend just over USD 930 per person per year on health, against USD 3 618 in OECD countries. This amounts to 4.7% of gross domestic product, on average, in the Asian region, compared to 9.3% in OECD countries in 2014.

The share of public spending in total health spending is much lower in Asia compared to OECD countries – 50.5% versus 72.7% respectively.

Health at a Glance Asia/Pacific 2016, a joint publication with the World Health Organisation, presents key indicators on health status, determinants of health, health care resources and utilisation, health expenditure and financing, and quality of care for 27 Asia/Pacific countries and economies. This report offers a comprehensive and user-friendly framework to help policy makers design and implement better policies to support countries’ progress towards universal health cover and improve the health of their populations.